Music belongs to everyone. Upward Notes is Natalie's organization that spreads the joy and benefits of music outside of the concert hall and througout the community. Currently based in the Sarasota Florida area, you can find her and her colleagues performing in all manner of spaces - from homeless shelters to assisted living facilities to animal shelters. Upward Notes is a volunteer based organization since giving back is an integral part of Natalie's musical mission.
It has been featured on many media outlets including PEOPLE Magazine, Tampa Fox News, and iheartradio's talk show, The Pet Buzz.
“catches the attention of the room"and
"leaves a lasting impression". LA Times proclaimed the audience
"was transfixed"by her performance that was
"handled ardently". A cellist of
"musical grace"and extraordinary versatility, Ms. Helm enjoys a dynamic career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician, and educator.
Ms. Helm’s recent engagements include appearances with the Dana Point Symphony, Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, and recitals throughout the United States. She was named Artist in Residence and Principal Cello of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra for the 2015-16 season. Other appearances include performances with the Richardson Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, World Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Colburn Orchestra.
A top prize winner at international competitions including the Lennox International Competition, Blount-Slawson Young Artist Competition, Kingsville Young Artist Competition, and MTNA, Ms. Helm has had the opportunity to perform internationally throughout Italy, Germany, and Japan. She is the recipient of the prestigious Karl Zeise Memorial Cello Award and has appeared in collaboration with the American Contemporary Ballet, Domingo-Thorton Young Artist, and Yamaha School of Music. In 2016, she toured the United States with a piano trio and vocalist that performed in over 30 cities in 3 weeks. Ms. Helm’s performances have been broadcast on NPR, iHeart Radio, Fox News, and PEOPLE Magazine.
As an avid chamber musician, Ms. Helm is the cellist of the Sarasota String Quartet and performs regularly with the Grammy nominated self-conducted orchestra A Far Cry, based in Boston, the contemporary music ensemblenewSRQ, based in Florida, and wildUp, based in Los Angeles. She has premiered and commissioned works by Stacy Garrop, Chris Rogerson, Stephen Cohn, and Michael Djupstrom. Ms. Helm has been featured in concert with The Da Camera Society, Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, Colburn Chamber Music Series, and Music From Angel Fire.
Music is a powerful elixir for change and Ms. Helm has embraced this idea through Upward Notes. As the founder, she brings musicians together to perform and create opportunities to bring positive social change to the communities she works in. Upward Notes has performed for prisoners, homeless shelters, dementia patients, and assisted living facilities throughout the United States.
Born in Louisville, KY, Ms. Helm began studying the cello at age eleven. After only five years of playing the cello, she was accepted into the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music studying with Peter Wiley and David Soyer. Ms Helm also holds an Artist Diploma from the Colburn School of Music where she studied with Ronald Leonard. She is currently a member of the Des Moines Metro Opera, on faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music’s Summerfest, and Associate Faculty at the Sarasota Music Festival. She has been on the faculty of the Pasadena School for Strings in Pasadena, CA, Montgomery Music Project in Montgomery, AL, and Go-go Allegro in Boston, MA.
Ms. Helm plays on a Raphael di Blasio cello from 1803.
Don’t get me wrong...I love the holiday season and all of the extra income that comes along with it...However, while the rest of the world breaks, we keep on making music....
In order to keep these holiday tunes a challenge, I’ve picked up the mandolin! Now, you would think with about 25 years of experience in music, I would have the ability to at least be proficient at most instruments. Not quite the case...back to square one, maybe two. But it wouldn’t be fun without the challenge, right? One of my colleagues has agreed to play Christmas duets with me during an orchestra break today, hence the double backpacked instruments in the pic below!
Yup, that’s the number one question for every cellist...well it’s actually a toss up between that and “Why is your guitar SO big?” Traveling, especially flying, with a cello can be a very trying experience to say the least. I have found the best technique is always having the headphones on whether there’s actually music on or not. Now I know you probably have a million questions for us so let me try to go ahead and answer a few for you:
Hey, we’ve all done it...Pulled out our instrument and played our go-to piece for something in exchange. I’ve played Bach Suite I, Prelude for more occasions than I care to share. (Most of them involve food or drink...) However, through my latest experience I have absolutely no shame :)
A few days ago I happened to show up to a rehearsal way too early and thought I would hop out of the car and visit a yard sale. Of course, leaving Ricki in the car was not an option, so naturally...we both got out of the car and began the hunt. After only about 10 min, I found 4 crates filled with records. I sat going through them and shortly found out that I needed all of them. These weren't just any records....these were the classics! We're talking Munch, Muti, Walter, Bernstein, etc...
I turned to the owner and asked how much for all of them...she said, "Oh, I don't know, $20 and a performance?" I thought for about 2 seconds....DEAL! I pulled out my wallet and handed her the $20. Pulled out my cello and played for about 4 minutes. And then collected my earnings!
Sometimes we forget how much our gift is worth! We take for granted the ability to do what we do. People are so appreciative when we take a moment to share it with them and in the end, it's always a win/win :)
I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about my cello being named Ricki...so let me go ahead and give you the full story. In the summer of 2015, it was finally time for me to find my own instrument. While I was a student at the Curtis Institute of Music (06-11), I played on a beautiful instrument from their instrument bank. While in Los Angeles at the Colburn School (11-14), I was lucky enough to have been given an instrument from the Maestro Foundation in Santa Monica. They allowed me to keep the instrument the following year while I freelanced in Boston but then it was time to start my own search. I began this process while in Des Moines, Iowa playing for the Des Moines Metro Opera. I set up appointments in all the big shops and all the big cities: Chicago, New York, and Boston. Little did I know, my Ricki was right under my nose in little Indianola, Iowa.
One day, our principal violist explained that she had her late mother’s cello with her at the festival in hopes of selling it to a shop. When she found out I was in the middle of a search, she asked me to play it and see what I thought. From the second I pulled it out of the case, I knew this one was special. The varnish was dark and glossy, the markings so unique, and the size...just a bit smaller than the normal cello. I played my first few notes and he sang so sweetly and easily! It was truly love at first notes ;)
I kept my other appointments and searched far and wide for a cello that stood up to Ricki. After weeks of trying hundreds of cellos, I made my decision. Shortly after I picked him up and received all of his paperwork, I realized he was from 1803 and Italian. I researched the maker, Raphael DiBlasio (a student of the great Ventapane), and found that he was from Naples, the same city as my late Grandpa, Enrico Cretella. It all made sense...the dolce quality mixed in with the Italian temperment...no other name would do...Ricki it was!
Had an amazing first week of rehearsals and performances here in Sarasota! I was able to reunite with some old music friends and make many new ones. That is one thing about the music world...it is incredibly small. After attending various summer music festivals for the past 15 years, going to school at two conservatories for 8 years, and living in 6 different cities...you really start to build a musical network. If you do not know someone, chances are they know someone you know. This is one of the many reasons I love having a life in music!
Immediately after accepting the position of Principal Cello with the Sarasota Orchestra, I flew out for a three week tour on the road. It was jam packed of performances…sometimes up to 3 a day!
We performed in all sorts of locations in 5 states and 15 cities. From beautiful concert halls to maximum security prisons. Although exhausting, it was extremely inspiring to see how much music can effect humans in all walks of life. I cannot express how strongly I feel that music is a language that really speaks to all of us. We just have to be open and listening :)
And now, I’m finally in Sarasota! So beyond thrilled to begin this new chapter and cannot wait to see what is in store for the 2016-17 season with the Sarasota Orchestra!